Whew! Well, it took me a little longer to get to this post than anticipated. But I’m happy to report that my stack of exams has all been marked, the final grades submitted, and all that remains of this semester are a few meetings next week. And then: par-tay!
Come to think of it, I already hosted my first party this season (except that makes it sound as if there will be more than one, doesn’t it?), a pot luck dinner a for some friends from nutrition school. Though only two of us are vegan, everyone brought along a vegan dish. Aren’t they an amazing, open-minded crowd? This year, in fact, almost everyone managed an ACD-friendly dish as well, so I was able to partake of almost everything. Here’s what we feasted upon:
- Roasted Red Pepper and Apple Dip with Cassava crackers
- Raw collard wraps with hummus and veggies (a HUGE hit with the guests–thanks for the inspiration, Melody!)
- Baba ganoush with rice crackers
- Veggie Pâté with rice crackers
- Tossed baby greens with dried organic cherries
- Cous Cous salad with olives and veggies
- Greek Lemon-Roasted Potatoes (a fabulous, ultra-easy recipe that I will post about anon!)
- Chocolate Macaroons
- Sweet Potato Pie
- Marble Cake
- Hazelnut Melting Moments cookies
Herbal tea, Perrier, red wine
These Hazelnut Melting Moments (one of my contributions, and one of the foods I couldn’t eat, ironically) are my remake of a confection I used to serve all the time at dinner parties. They speak of the holidays to me, so I figured I’d whip up a batch (well, if you heard cookies talking, could you say “no” to them? Lucky for me I don’t hear dead people).
Way back in my 30s, I lived in a basement apartment. Of all the places I’ve lived as an adult (with the exception of the wee postwar bungalow I owned when I first met the HH), that apartment was my favorite. Why, you ask? Well, you know what they say: “location, location, location.”
You see, the place was situated on the venerable Heath Street in Toronto, just a hop, skip and condominium or two from the St. Clair subway and in the tony Forest Hill area of town. The building itself was a renovated Victorian mansion; our landlady had gone to some trouble to furnish the upper three flats with marble bathroom tiles, hardwood floors, stylish light fixtures and even reverse-osmosis water filtration systems in the kitchens.
My place, on the other hand, hadn’t been upgraded a whit; it was, simply, a basement apartment, much like any other (except in the basement of a lovely old mansion in a wealthy area of town, of course). Perhaps my landlady assumed people in that part of the city wouldn’t lower themselves–no pun intended–to live in subterranean digs; whatever the reason, I couldn’t believe how affordable the place was, and leapt at the chance to move in.
It may have been a basement, with peephole-sized windows that framed pedestrians’ footwear as they trod by above; it may have been a haven for a constant procession of bugs, spiders and even the errant mouse on occasion (I’m sure you must have heard me shriek when I first spied that little rodent taking a stroll through my living room); it may have housed the furnace for the entire building in my coat closet (the other tenants regularly knocked on my door at all hours of the day or night to ask me to turn up the heat); but I loved it. It was clean, it was roomy, and it was warm (courtesy of aforementioned furnace).
And it was the setting for many a dinner party.
These days, one event a year seems like plenty; but back then–what I now consider “The Year of Living Sociably”–I’d use any excuse to entertain. Your birthday? Let me throw you a party! Got a promotion? I’ll cook dinner for you and four friends! Just adopted a daughter from China? Let’s have the entire group who flew over from Canada to my place!
It was my first apartment on my own after I got divorced from the Starter Husband, and I took every opportunity to socialize. I even held my divorce ceremony and subsequent “I’m Free!” reception there. And I hosted a “I think I’m in love” bash when the HH and I finally got together.
Like a regular guest, these Hazelnut Melting Moments made an appearance at almost every gathering (though they never stuck around to the end of the soirée). Partway between a shortbread and a chocolate chip cookie, they are slightly sandy, buttery, with a hint of citrus. Topped with a melty pool of chocolate that oozes and dribbles on your chin if you eat them while still warm (not that I’d have any experience with such things), they’re an indulgent treat for the season. My newfangled version, either gluten-free or not, as you like, was every bit as delicious as the original (luckily, my guests ate them all, so I wasn’t tempted).
The cookies keep well, and would make a wonderful holiday gift. Something, say, to bring along to a party.
Hazelnut Melting Moments Times Two
Because these beauties are similar to shortbread and not cakelike, they are easily adaptable to gluten free cooking. I’ve made both versions (the GF at my pot luck, and in these photos), and they were a huge hit with everyone.
1/3 cup (60 g) Sucanat or any unrefined evaporated cane juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic, soft at room temperature (but not melted)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) nutritional yeast, optional (adds a richness to the flavor)
2 tsp (10 ml) lemon or orange zest
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) finely ground chia seeds
1 cup (240 ml) finely ground hazelnuts (filberts), either raw or lightly toasted before grinding*
1-1/4 cups (175 g) light spelt flour or 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (270 ml) all purpose GF flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill AP flour)*–or use your own favorite combination of gluten free flours
3 oz (85 g) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water and vanilla until the Sucanat begins to dissolve. Add the coconut oil, nutritional yeast, vanilla, lemon zest and chia seeds and mix well.
Remove 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the ground hazelnuts and set aside in a small bowl. Add the remaining hazelnuts and flour to the bowl and mix well until the dry ingredients are incorporated and you have a stiff dough. Work it with your hands if necessary until the dough holds together (if it is really dry, add up to one more Tbsp or 15 ml of water). The dough should NOT be sticky or too soft.
Using a small scoop or teaspoon, scoop out portions of dough and work them in your hands to create balls. (The GF dough may be too dry to roll it in your palms; I squeezed it in my fist, moving it back and forth from one hand to the other and squeezing it together each time I passed it back and forth, until it held together.) Place the balls about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) apart on the cookie sheet.
Using your thumb or index finger, press an indentation on the top of each cookie (this may cause the outer edges of the GF cookies to crack or separate; just push them back together with your fingers).
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden around the edges. While the cookies bake, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler of over extremely low heat, stirring constantly. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) melted chocolate, then sprinkle with a bit of the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of reserved ground hazelnuts. Cool and devour. Makes 12-15 cookies. May be frozen.
* If you’re using metric measures, I apologize for using volume measurements instead of weight for the nuts and flours; my kitchen scale has broken, and I couldn’t wait to post the recipe! Will buy a new scale this weekend.
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Last Year at this Time: Gastronomic Gifts IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers
© 2009 Ricki Heller